A KEY decision that will determine which political party leads Carlisle City Council may go right to the wire.

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour secured enough seats to take overall control, leaving leaders of both parties attempting to negotiate a deal.

But one week on from the elections, the majority of the remaining councillors - four independents, one Green, one Ukip and one Liberal Democrat - are looking reluctant to enter into any formal coalition.

It means there is no clear winner emerging in the leadership battle - and it may not be decided until the first full council meeting on May 20.

The election was the first under new ward boundaries, which saw the total number of councillors drop from 52 to 39, with three now representing each area.

The count saw several shock results, with the Greens and Ukip both gaining their first city council seats and several long-serving councillors losing their seats.

The Botcherby and North Harraby ward was the most hotly-contested, with three existing independent councillors going up against three from Labour.

On the day it was the independents that came out on top, with Rob Betton, Jeff Bomford and Jack Paton all re-elected.

In Brampton and Fellside, independent candidate Ray Tinnion - who previously represented the much smaller Hayton ward - hung on to his council seat, at the expense of long-serving Conservative councillor and former mayor Doreen Parsons.

Well-known Dalston and Burgh councillor Trevor Allison was also re-elected, with a strong majority, as the only Liberal Democrat city councillor.

It left the Conservatives with a total of 17 seats and Labour with 15 - well short of the 20 needed to take majority control.

Informal approaches have since been made to see if a deal was a possibility, but initial signs suggest that it is not.

If a formal coalition doesn’t materialise, it will be up to members to vote for a leader at their first meeting of the new council.

They are likely to have two choices - Conservative John Mallinson or Labour’s Colin Glover, who were both re-elected as their party leaders this week.

The pair said they would be holding discussions with the other councillors over the coming week, but agreed that it may well go right to the wire.

Mr Mallinson, whose deputy remains Belah councillor Gareth Ellis, said: “We are the largest group, but short of an overall majority. Things are really in flux.

“The group has authorised me to speak to anybody and see if we can arrive at some sort of consensus to form an administration.

“It’s early days and I’m a natural optimist, but it may well be that we do not know until the morning of May 20.”

Mr Glover, who remains leader of the Labour group with Les Tickner as deputy, said: “We are still in discussions with other parties, but I don’t think we are at the point of achieving a solution at the moment.

“Some councillors have indicated that they may not decide until the day of the meeting.

“We will continue having these conversations to see if we can find some common ground.”